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NGOs Urge “Solution from Within” For Somalia

BRUSSELS/JUBA, Feb 25 2012 (IPS) - While the international community discusses Somalia’s future in London and Brussels, European and Somali non-governmental organisations are calling for a radical shift from a military to a humanitarian approach as the only solution to the country’s war-torn condition.

Somalia has still not recovered from its last humanitarian crisis. Six months after the United Nations declared a famine in the country, more than 325, 000 children are still suffering from acute malnutrition. Though last summer’s response from the international community and civil society did succeed in saving many lives, expulsions of aid agencies and internationally backed military operations still impede humanitarian assistance from reaching those who are most in need.

During the London Somalia Conference last Thursday, world leaders reached an agreement on seven key areas to put an end to Somalia’s precarious situation, including security, piracy, terrorism, humanitarian assistance, local stability, a reinstallment of the political process and international cooperation.

Talks about the country will resume at the European Union Foreign Affairs meeting starting next Monday in Brussels.

Although NGOs applaud the international community’s initiative and effort to help Somalia, the proposed seven key areas were received with mixed feelings.

“What we had hoped for was a recognition that twenty years of internationally imposed solutions have failed. However, what we’ve seen once again were externally driven solutions that haven’t worked, aren’t working and will not work,” Barbara Stocking from Oxfam International said in a press release on Thursday.

Oxfam is demanding that the international community radically shift its approach in order to effectively brighten Somalia’s future. In its new report ‘Putting the Interests of Somali People First’, the organisation states that although responsibility for Somalia’s crisis lies foremost with factions inside the country, international engagement has at times made matters worst.

For many governments involved in Somalia, military action is seen as a means of providing security and stability, but reports from inside tell a different story.

“Setting out a new approach by shifting the emphasis away from anti-piracy and security concerns and taking practical steps towards an inclusive political process must be at the top of Europe’s agenda if it is serious about bringing long-term peace and security to ordinary Somalis and the region,” Natalia Alonso, Head of Oxfam’s EU office in Brussels, stated in a press release on Wednesday.

“For more than twenty years foreign armies have been coming in and going out of Somalia, without any success,” Tidhar Wald, Oxfam’s EU humanitarian policy advisor told IPS. “What we need right now is an inclusive, Somali-led peace process. Somalis themselves should have a say in the solution the international community is outlining. If you look at the conferences that are taking place right now, you can clearly see there are not enough Somali voices taking part in the decision-making.”

Oxfam’s standpoint is reflected on the ground in Somalia itself.

“The last twenty years have seen numerous military interventions in Somalia,” Aydris Daar, CEO of the Wajir South Development Association (WASDA) in Juba, Somalia, told IPS. “Whenever they occurred, they led to an increase of conflicts inside the country. And when conflicts increase, regular people do not have time to attend to ther daily work, children cannot go to school and there is no time or space to do business, which affects the economic situation. Military actions in Somalia have never improved the humanitarian situation,” he said.

According to WASDA, any solution for Somalia’s war-torn condition should be fully grounded in a humanitarian principle.

“International action should not lead to further suffering in Somalia,” Aydris Daar told IPS, “The solution must come from within  but before that can happen, we need support: funding for Somalia must be (long term), so it can go beyond relief into recovery and development. Seventy percent of the people in Somalia are younger than 35; it is their poverty and unemployment that is pushing them to take sides in the conflicts. This is what is fuelling conflicts in Somalia.”

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